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Building ventures during COVID-19

The ongoing pandemic has brought the global economy to a standstill and is posing unprecedented challenges to the fashion industry. It lays bare pain points within the industry and makes clear the need for shifts in the behaviour of both consumers and producers.  It’s far from business as usual for anyone right now. However one thing remains certain, we’re continuing with what we do best: Building companies that change the apparel production chain for the better. Change is needed now more than ever. Let us give you a peek into what we see happening in the industry, how our venture building activities are affected and what we’re doing about it!

Supporting the supply chain: An opportunity in crisis

Brands are coping with lost revenues, low consumer confidence and many shops in lockdown, thereby leading to enormous overstock. Many suppliers in producing countries, including India, have to deal with order cancellations, and as a result, workers throughout the value chain have been hit hard. Organisations like Fashion Revolution and Remake are drawing attention to this problem. What is becoming clear is that brands taking responsibility for their supply chain are able to positively distinguish themselves from those who let them down. The brands that support their suppliers by paying for cancelled orders, paying for the salaries of workers and finding new solutions together have been highly appreciated and recognized by customers. 

As the greater fashion sector is hit hard, so are ventures within the fields of circularity and fair fashion. Our ventures are no exception and are today working hard to overcome the impact of COVID-19.

We’re facing challenges and are working hard to overcome them:

Fair Fashion & COVID-19: The challenges facing our ventures

  • Khaloom faced a full production stop, leading to a direct loss in revenue and challenges in paying the staff. As many brands were cancelling orders, tailors and weavers hit the streets in India, risking their health to protest over unpaid wages. Khaloom set the standard for social inclusivity in the industry as we continued to pay the weavers during the crisis. Khaloom has also used its handwoven and recycled fabrics to provide essential workers in Bangalore with face masks. Fortunately, after a lockdown period of almost 2 months, the Khaloom weaving unit is now open again.
  • Upset’s partner PurFi Manufacturing has encountered delays with its pilot plant in Belgium as the equipment and machinery from Italy couldn’t be delivered. In the mean-time, the opening up of the pilot plant is rescheduled for September. The building of a rejuvenation facility in India will provide security in the long term. 
  • The business development of Puraloop and our Future Proof Production House both face challenges as on-site customer validation, and running pilots with customers have been put on hold. We have seized the moment to further research market opportunities, finetune the financial model and build new opportunities. 
  • For DesertSpring, the team currently can’t travel to China, which is needed to run a large scale pilot to harvest and process sea buckthorn. As the harvest is only three months a year, the government policies taken in the upcoming months will decide how we’ll execute the pilot. We’re looking into several scenarios varying from full pilot implementation to postponing a part of the pilot till next harvest. The choice will depend on how we’ll be able to capture as many learnings as possible to assess commercial feasibility and the impact of the business.

Despite these setbacks, we continue to see the positive effects for our ventures in the long run. This crisis will force brands to reshape their value chains and sustainable and inclusive innovations will definitely be a key part of the mix. We’re continuing to spot opportunities for our ventures to drive the apparel production value chain towards circularity and inclusiveness! 

The pandemic has caused major disruptions and has forced social and environmental issues into the spotlight, throughout the fashion sector. With many consumers rethinking their buying habits and what’s important to them, their purchasing behaviour is leading to increased focus on sustainable fashion. 

The need for a slower pace in fashion combined with increased focus on the quality and longevity of garments as well as sustainable production methods have become clear. There’s no way back, brands need to show their purpose and commitment to ethical fashion to remain relevant in the long run. Let’s take this opportunity for change!

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